Friday, 2 October 2009

Albums you should own. John Vanderslice- Pixel Revolt

You remember when I used to do specific blogs on different days of the week? Well I was reminiscing over those times on the way to the gym, the reason for this being I organised my gym trip around harvesting my vegetables on farmville (*cough*whatageek) yeah so i'm on level 25 so what? But yes I've learned to organise my time well recently what with working 50 hour 7 day weeks at the job i just left, despite that I was still going to the gym every day and going out to gigs and stuff, when it stopped I reflected and was impressed but it seems this habit dies hard which i'm glad for as i'm literally spending time wisely these days, especially if you consider on a virtual farm wisely.

So yes it made me think that maybe not everyone own pixel revolt, summer in abaddon, frank, we have the facts, good news for people who love bad news, underachievers please try harder and all the rest of em and it made me realise that this simply must become a weekly fixture on ma blog.

John Vanderslice- Pixel Revolt (2005)

I've posted about john vanderslice before, waxing lyrical over his work ethic, his studio and love for musical progression. So in that I probably mentioned I first discovered him on tour with death cab in sort of 2006 where I was lucky enough to see him and his band 3 times and each time realised just a litte bit more about how brilliant an artist he is.

Probably best to begin at the beginning, yeah i've read under milk wood so what? I won't do every track as otherwise this blog will be humungous just the ones you really have got to hear.

The album kicks off with a letter to the east coast which I probably skipped the first 20 times I listened to the album but now kinda like it. It's sort of an account of the tragic actress joan crawford's life if you don't know her you'll recognise her if you saw a pic. It's a nice song and a quaint prelude to-

The best song about september 11th I have ever heard. Starts off innocuously enough, musing over JV's love of guns. He loves guns, this is far from the last time firearms are referenced in his works. So there's the refrain of dance, dance revolution which is nice then, starts talking literally about his experiences on that fateful september morning and how it didn't feel real before relating it to his relationship and finding solace in one person when there doesn't seem to be anything else good in the world.

Peacocks in the video rain is a pretty jaunty unless you listen to the lyrics "you can tell a cable from a tourniquet when 10,000 12 year olds mouth along", if you don't know then you've probably never been on heroin lol. It swims along nicely, i've given it a rating of 3 on my ipod which is a pretty accurate description of it. Good enough to be rated but it aint a 4 starrer baby!

There was a period at university where I listened to trance manual every day, (it's a 5 starrer by the way), it's a beautiful song, just an amazing, poet, relaxing gift of a song. I've not heard anything like it since like lucy in the sky with diamonds painting these clear yet abstract pictures with a slow wistful vocal and twinkling, droning instrumentation. The song sounds like the most blissfull sleep if you have synesthesia.

I know I said I wasn't going to review every single track but it turns out i've rated the first 9 consequetive songs on the album, that's how perfect this album is. It came along at a time when death cab had released plans, the decemberists were gearing up for picaresque, modest mouse were touring good news..., it was a boom in independant music in america and all regions were invited. Flying high with labels such as sub-pop, barsuk and pioneering producers and forward thinking artists all heading in the same direction and making sure they had more than enough men on the front line for their assault on the mainstream. This concluded with billboard number ones for modest mouse and death cab for cutie and ben gibbard hooking up with zooey deschenal. In the end it felt like everyone became as successful as they wanted to be and we're lucky to be around in the times that see bands like monsters of folk happening and have all these great lyricists at the top of their game. Now where was I...

JV opened each of the shows with plymouth rock, maybe because it has a little hand clappy bit where you can tell who's a proper fan from the get go and maybe because it's as atmospheric as fuck. "a moonless night, blacked out except for the street fires". The middle 8 has some pretty imaginitive instrumentation in too and this happens regularly with the band you hear this stuff on cd and you think how the hell do they do that live and they pull it off so effortlessly, Vanderslice has of course been in the game for a while and MK Ultra was as lo-fi experimental as mountain goats. The band.

New Zealand Pines is an odd track, i've rated it 4* because once again, I've not heard anything like it! It sounds like it's underwater, the music and lyrical themes reflective of this. The song makes you feel like trying to get warm in the winter. There's also a line in this song which probably did bump it up from a 3 to a 4 to be honest but that happens, deal with it.

"back and forth and back and forth
Goes the tock of the orange, bland, ambassadorial
Face of the moon on the grandfather clock.
All autumn long, the chafe and jar of dirty bomb
We have talked ourselves to death."

These lyrics are taken from robert lowell's 1961 so I can't really say it's genius on JV's part but fuck do I wish I could write lines like that. So that was radiant with terror, it has a great little chorus that's catchy and fearsome. Next up is probably THE most original song i've ever heard.. Ok i know i've overdone the superlatives on this album but it really is that good and this song THAT original. So it's about four detectives, written from the point of view of one of them, they are all suspected killers and from his point of view he knows it's not him or these two other guys where he's suspected by the other two so the actual killer, detective reger, knows he's on to him and plans to murder him next. You really must listen to this song. (Continuation)

O.K I know i've gone on and on about how original this album is but i'm at pains to emphasise it because it is mind blowing. Dear sarah shu has lyrics like "peer round corners with dental mirrors heed the threats taking cautionary measures" and "your office will flood every night, it's water don't try to fight. Suspend all your files using my system of hanging wires" like if I wrote this one night, I'd wake up the next morning and be like wtf this is mental and dumb but in reality this is utter brilliance.

And it turns out after track 9 i didn't rate any so maybe just get those so your first listening of the album isn't diluted by its decent into an, albeit really quite beautiful but sleepy ending.

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